It’s often been said that we are in control of our destiny. In reflecting upon this idea, I think we have to look to research that has in fact shown a bidirectional communication between the mind and the body – and that one can certainly influence the other, especially in the case of chronic illnesses.
Our thoughts control neurotransmitters, which control virtually all of the body’s functions, from feeling happy to modulating hormones to dealing with stress. According to several studies, we’ve learned that chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation, or the process by which our cells “talk” to one another and impact our brain activity. Disruption of this communication can result in the loss of sociability and the avoidance of interactions with others. Stress, especially when it occurs continually, can actually cause the death of brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain. This kind of ongoing, relentless stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning, which subsequently impacts both our short and long term functioning.
For individuals living with chronic disease such as multiple sclerosis, there is so much truth to embracing “mind over matter’ and exploring the means of unlocking the power of our mind to control and improve symptoms. Your mind can be your best asset or your worst enemy. Learn how to train your brain to help your body perform at its peak. As difficult as it may be, try to look at life as an optimist as recent studies have clearly shown that maintaining a hopeful outlook can strengthen your immune system. Even if you don’t suffer with a neurological disorder or inflammatory condition, imagine the positive effect this could have on your daily health and wellbeing.
As we look toward the promise and hope of a new year – and a new decade! - I encourage you to read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Changing how we start our day and revamping our routine is not easy for any of us. But when we implement some key simple steps such as daily meditation, mindfulness, journaling and gratitude, I believe wonderful amazing things can and will happen in our lives.
As William Shakespeare so beautifully stated, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.” I look forward to continuing to share this journey with each of you and seeing how we visualize and then realize this brighter destiny together!
Dr. Suzy Gazda
Dr. Suzanne Gazda, Integrative Neurology